12 Jul 2009

Essays on The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare is considered by many to be one of history’s most prolific and dynamic playwrights, having written dozens of plays ranging from dramatic tragedies (Macbeth) to whimsical romances (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).  One of his best known plays is “The Merchant of Venice.”

The Merchant of Venice, as the name implies, is set primarily in the historic city of Venice, Italy.  Dealing with a mix of romantic intrigue and political turmoil, The Merchant of Venice provides numerous avenues of essay and literary evaluation.  During the course of The Merchant of Venice, issues such as the extent of what friends will do for friends, what children will do to honor their parents, what others do to pursue love, and even what mankind in general will do to exact vengeance on those perceived to have wronged us are addressed in a series of profound, but realistic events.

Central to the story is the friendship between the main characters, Bassanio and Antonio.  Bassanio is in love with the beautiful and wealthy Portia of the city of Belmont.  Antonio, out of friendship, arranges a loan for Bassanio with a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, pledging a pound of his own flesh in forfeiture should they be unable to repay the loan, setting the stage for the events to follow.

  • William Shakespeare had a talent of hiding themes and lessons within many of his plays.  One hidden theme of “The Merchant of Venice” is the concept of wisdom and our understanding of it.  Within the prose of the play, how it guides the lives of those who have it, and how those who lack it end up paying the consequences are revealed.  Choose a character and discuss how the concept of wisdom affects the character through the course of the play.
  • Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this play is the riddle of the boxes.  Describe the test and its consequences for those involved.  Explain how the concepts of obedience and wisdom play into this from the aspect of Portia’s obedience to her father’s wishes and from the father’s wisdom in the test itself.
  • The Merchant of Venice is often cited as the source for our concept of “a pound of flesh,” implying a claim of vengeance that is expected to come at a high price or with considerable risk to the claimant.  Explore why this is so and analyze the appropriateness of the present day implications of the expression and significance of the play.

Plays such as The Merchant of Venice hold double risk for students in their writings.  The plays not only hold hidden meanings, but were written in a vastly different society, with forgotten connotations embedded within its prose that held significance during the time of Shakespeare, but that are almost meaningless to us today.  Our writers stand ready to assist in your needs for Shakespearean play essays and literary analyses.

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